VU Women Beat Alabama, 88-64

Led by 21 points from Tina Wirth and a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range by Merideth Marsh, Vanderbilt defeated Alabama 88-64 on Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym. Varisia Raffington led the Crimson Tide with 27 points, including seven 3-pointers.

When Vanderbilt visited Tuscaloosa last month, the Commodores took a 47-22 lead into the locker room at halftime. That apparently comfortable margin evaporated in the second half, as the Crimson Tide whittled the lead down to just four points with two minutes left to play. Vanderbilt finally managed to shut the door and hang on for a 85-76 victory.

So isn't surprising that when the Dores took another 25-point lead into the locker room at halftime on Sunday, some people were reminded of the earlier game.

Alabama Coach Wendell Hudson was one of them. "Vandy didn't come out to shoot around after halftime until about a minute left on the clock," he said after the game. "I think Coach was down there reminding them about the second half down at our place."

"I remember saying that it was probably a horrible halftime speech last time," said Vanderbilt Head Coach Melanie Balcomb. "But I've gotten to know the personality of the team a little bit more, and it's not like even had to look back to Alabama. We had the same thing against Arkansas, so it's very fresh in our minds."

But Balcomb didn't have to harp on it. "We just looked at each other like, let's not even bring up last time," she said. "They already know from the last few games what they need to do. And that was their focus."

The second half in this game didn't turn out to be a bed of roses, or a perfect second half. Alabama actually won the second half 41-40. But this game was nonetheless an improvement over the second half score in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama held a 54-38 edge.

"I felt much better about this one because when we did have our moments, I think we came right back," she said. "We called timeouts. We got in the huddle during those timeouts and really got on them. They got on each other and I think they held each other more accountable."

Offensively, Merideth Marsh, who shot a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line, was an important part of the answer when Alabama threatened to close the gap.

"It's not just making the 3-pointers; it's when she made them," said Hudson. "We made a 3-pointer, and we felt like we had chipped into the lead, and then she stepped up and made a big 3-pointer. Sometimes it's when you make them that is really the difference in the game."

But Vanderbilt had problems on the defensive end during the second half. In Tuscaloosa, Ericka Russell scored a career high 25-points. On Sunday afternoon, the Dores held her to 0-8 shooting from the field and 0 points. But Varisia Raffington scorched the Dores with 27 points, including 7-8 from behind the arc.

"So we have to play smarter on defense," said Balcomb. "I like our energy; I like our effort, but we've got to have better recognition on who's hurting us at the time during the game and be able to shut those people down."

Tina Wirth echoed the the need for in-game adjustments defensively. "Some of that is from the coaching staff, and some of that is, as a player, you just need to realize #20 is going off, shut her down, things like that," she said. "You definitely need to know players' tendencies and start taking things away from them, and we didn't do that."

With the win, Vanderbilt improved to 17-5 on the season, 6-1 in the SEC, which puts the team in a 3-way tie for first place along with Auburn and Florida.

Next, the Dores have a two-game road swing with games in Starkville on Thursday and Kentucky on Sunday. Next home game will be on Thursday February 12 at 7:00 pm when the Florida Gators visit Memorial Gym. Then, on Sunday February 15, Georgia visits for the PINK OUT game, which will be televised on ESPN2.

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Hannah Tuomi

Chanel Chisholm

Jessica Mooney

Lauren Lueders

Coach Balcomb: Lauren has just settled down. It's a really good time for her to settle down, and she's settling into playing and being that other shooter coming off the bench that we were looking for. She's always been very tough, she's always had a great effort, but she played more in a speed mode on offense that wasn't the same as everybody else's, and I think she just settled down. I think she's slowed down, reading the game, making great decisions, and she's a very good basketball player. So it's good to have her where she is. I think she's gotten better every game these past couple of games that I've put her in, and I think that's really important for our depth down the stretch.

At halftime, the 1983-84 Women's NIT Championship team, the first national title won by any Vanderbilt team in any sport, was honored. From left: Current Senior Women's Administrator, Candice Storey-Lee, Donna Atkinson, Karen Booker, Harriet Brumfield-Mason, Jackie Cowan Ransom, Teresa Lawrence-Phillips (assistant coach), Pat Neblett Moran (part-time assistant coach), Shirley Simmons (trainer), Dana Turner Reece, June Stewart (Sports Information Director), Vice Chancellor David Williams. (Click photo to view a larger image.)

Ashlee Bridge

Tina Wirth

Lauren Lueders

Tina Wirth

Jordan Coleman

Tia GIbbs

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Photos copyright 2009 by Whitney D. for

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